Yamaha's RX-V381 Budget Home Theater Receiver - What You Need To Know

Yamaha RX-V381 5.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver
Images provided by Yamaha

Home theater can be quite intimidating to many consumers, as there is the impression that it complicated, messy, and inexpensive. That doesn't necessarily have to the case, especially for the newbie.

If you would like to add an effective surround sound listening experience to your TV viewing, and were thinking about going the soundbar route, you might also check out what a modest home theater receiver, such as the less than $300-priced Yamaha RX-V381 offers. Combined with a modest speakers system, the RX-V381 can deliver what you want, without a lot of complexity.

The Audio

To start, the Yamaha RX-V381 incorporates a basic 5.1 channel configuration (left, center, right, left surround, right surround) and is rated at 70 watts-per-channel (measured from 20Hz to 20kHz, 2-channels driven, 8 ohms, .09% THD). If you have a room size up to 15x20 feet, the RX-V381 should enough power unless you listen to extremely high volume levels.

The RX-V381 is compatible with most Dolby and DTS surround sound formats, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio that used primarily on Blu-ray Disc soundtracks.

The RX-V381 also incorporates an additional speaker setup option, which employs Virtual Cinema Front Surround. This surround sound processing feature allows you to place all five satellite speakers and subwoofer in the front of the room, but still get an approximate side and rear surround sound listening experience via a variation of Air Surround Xtreme technology that Yamaha incorporates in it soundbar product line.

For those that use small speakers, the RX-V381 also includes Extra Bass audio processing, which enhances low-frequency output without detracting from the mid and high-frequency output.

For easy speaker setup, the receiver provides the Yamaha YPAO automatic speaker setup system, which includes a provided microphone and built-in test tone generator. The system is able to determine speaker distance and placement, and then adjusts the speaker levels and equalization for best performance in a given room environment.

In addition to its core audio features, the RX-V381 also provides the ability to stream music content directly from many smartphones and tablets via its built-in Bluetooth feature. In addition, a compressed music enhancer is included with cleans up and boosts the quality of Bluetooth music sources. The RX-V381 does not have built-in Internet or network streaming capability.

One final added audio bonus is the inclusion of Yamaha's Silent Cinema. This feature allows you to listen to surround sound using any set of headphones. This is great for late night or private listening.

The Video

To support today's home theater video needs, the RX-V381 includes four HDMI inputs (all rear mounted) and one output with 3D and 4K Ultra HD pass-through as well as Audio Return Channel compatibility.

Although the RX-V381 provides 3D and up to 4K (60fps) resolution video pass-through (with HDR and BT.2020 color support), it does not provide analog-to-HDMI video conversion or additional video processing or upscaling.

The RX-V381 does incorporate HDCP 2.2 copy-protection, which allows secure 4K content streaming).

For added setup convenience, Yamaha also provides access to its free AV Setup Guide App for compatible iOS and Android devices.

NOTE: It must be pointed out, for those that have older home theater gear, that the Yamaha RXV-381 does not provide any Component or S-Video, 5.1 channel analog, or Phono inputs, and there is only one digital optical input (there are no digital coaxial audio inputs). There is also no USB connection provided for playing music stored on flash drives or iPods.

The Bottom Line

The RX-V381 is designed for those looking for the very basics in a home theater receiver, but with practical features for today's 4K Ultra HD and Bluetooth sources. Whether you are a home theater newbie or a dedicated home theater fan that may looking for a modest receiver to power a second room setup, definitely check out the Yamaha RX-V381 as a possible option.

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